Sunday, December 9, 2018

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1850 (starts 12/10/18)

    This week it's free form rambling time, as we manage to fit in a baker's dozen of tunes, ranging from 1968 to 1975, ordered by...but no, that would be revealing too much.

Artist:    Black Sabbath
Title:    Iron Man
Source:    LP: Paranoid
Writer(s):    Iommi/Osbourne/Butler/Ward
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1970
    Black Sabbath tended to write songs as a group, with Tony Iommi coming up with a guitar riff, Ozzy Osbourne figuring out a melody, Geezer Butler writing lyrics and Bill Ward adding the finishing touches with his drum set. One of their most famous tracks, Iron Man, started off exactly that way. When Ozzy Osbourne heard Tony Iommi's riff he remarked that it sounded "like a big iron bloke walking about". Butler took the idea and ran with it, coming up with a song about a man who travels to the future, sees the devastation and returns to his own time to try to change things. Unfortunately he gets caught in a magnetic field that turns him into living steel, mute and unable to verbally express himself. His efforts to communicate are met with indifference and even mockery, angering him to the point that he himself becomes the cause of the destruction he had witnessed. The song is considered one of foundation stones of what came to be called heavy metal. It's continued popularity is evidenced by the fact that it was used in the Iron Man movies, despite having no real connection to the film, other than being the title character's favorite song.

Artist:     Lighthouse
Title:     Lonely Places
Source:     45 RPM single B side
Writer:     P. Hoffert/B. Hoffert
Label:     Evolution (original label: GRT)
Year:     1972
     The Canadian band Lighthouse was an attempt by drummer Skip Prokop (formerly of The Paupers) and others to incorporate both horns and strings into a rock band. Lonely Places, which was released as the B side of the band's 1972 single, Sunny Days,  shows that the idea had potential but never really got off the ground.

Artist:    Eric Clapton
Title:    Slunky
Source:    LP: Eric clapton
Writer(s):    Bramlett/Clapton
Label:    Atco
Year:    1970
    Eric Clapton got to know Delaney Bramlett after (on George Harrison's recommendation) Clapton invited Delaney And Bonnie And Friends to be Blind Faith's opening band for their 1969 tour. By the time the tour was over, Clapton was sitting in with Delaney And Bonnie for several appearances, telling friends that he preferred their music to that of Blind Faith. After Blind Faith split up (bet you saw that coming), Clapton appeared on the 1970 LP Delaney And Bonnie And Friends On Tour With Eric Clapton. Bramlett and Clapton collaborated on an instrumental called Slunky that would become the opening track of Clapton's first solo LP that same year. Many of the same musicians from this group accompanied Clapton on the LP, including several that would become part of Clapton's next band, Derek And The Dominos.

Artist:    Gun
Title:    Sunshine
Source:    German import CD: Gun
Writer(s):    Adrian Gurvitz
Label:    Repertoire (original label: CBS)
Year:    1968
    When I was a junior in high school I switched from guitar to bass to form a three-piece band called Sunn. Mostly what we did was jam onstage, although we did learn a handfull of cover songs as well. One of those songs we actually learned by playing it on the jukebox at the local youth center over and over. A British band called Gun had released a tune called Race With The Devil that caught on quickly with the dependent kids at Ramstein AFB in Germany. None of us, however, actually had a copy of the record. A rival band had already started playing Race With The Devil, so we decided to instead go for the B side, Sunshine. Luckily, the song has few lyrics, and tends to repeat them a lot, so we didn't have to spend a whole lot of nickels to get them all down. Ditto for the musical part, as the song is basically just three chords over and over. Still, it turned out to be one of our most popular numbers, since it was about the only song in our repertoire you could slow dance to. Also, the simple structure allowed Dave, our guitarist, to extend the song as long as he felt like jamming, which was generally all night.

Artist:    Deep Purple
Title:    Hey Joe
Source:    LP: Shades Of Deep Purple
Writer(s):    Billy Roberts
Label:    Tetragrammaton
Year:    1968
    My first impression of Deep Purple was that they were Britain's answer to the Vanilla Fudge. After all, both bands had a big hit in 1968 with a rearranged version of someone else's song from 1967 (Vanilla Fudge with the Supremes' You Keep Me Hangin' On and Deep Purple with Billy Joe Royal's Hush). Additionally, both groups included a Beatles cover on their debut LP (Fudge: Ticket To Ride, Purple: Help). Finally, both albums included a depressing Cher cover song. In the Vanilla Fudge case it was one of her biggest hits, Bang Bang. Deep Purple, on the other hand, went with a song that was actually more closely associated with the Jimi Hendrix Experience (although Cher did record it as well): Hey Joe. The Deep Purple version of the Billy Roberts classic (originally credited to the band on the label itself), is probably the most elaborate of the dozens of recorded versions of the song (which is up there with Louie Louie in terms of quantity), incorporating sections of the Miller's Dance (by Italian classical composer Manuel de Falla), as well as an extended instrumental section, making the finished track over seven and a half minutes long.

Artist:    Randy California
Title:    Day Tripper
Source:    European import CD: Pure...Psychedelic Rock (originally released on LP: Kapt. Kopter And The (Fabulous) Twirly Birds)
Writer(s):    Lennon/McCartney
Label:    Sony Music (original US label: Epic)
Year:    1972
    In 1972, with his band Spirit having fallen apart (temporarily as it turned out), guitarist Randy California released his first solo LP, Kapt. Kopter And The (Fabulous) Twirly Birds, on which he also sang lead vocals. The album contained a mix of original tunes and covers, of which Day Tripper was the most recognizable. Indeed, one of the primary criticisms of the album was the fact that most of the cover songs sounded like jams on the songs' main riffs rather than actual arrangements.

Artist:    National Lampoon
Title:    (Down The Dial To) Kung Fu Christmas
Source:    CD: Greatest Hits Of The National Lampoon (originally released as 45 RPM single and on LP: Goodbye Pop 1952-1976)
Writer(s):    Doyle-Murray/Guest/Shaffer
Label:    Uproar (original label: Epic)
Year:    1975
    The 1970s were a golden age for counter-culture humor, with stars like George Carlin, Richard Pryor and Cheech And Chong rising to prominence in the decade. Their were also collectives like Second City and the Credibility Gap making waves in comedy circles. Perhaps the most influential source of counter-culture humor, however, was a magazine called National Lampoon. By the mid-1970s, the NatLamp franchise included a weekly radio show, an off-Broadway play (with the key word being "off"), several LPs and, within a few years, several movies. Some of the most talented comedians of the decade contributed to National Lampoon albums, including Brian Doyle-Murray, Christopher Guest and bandleader Paul Shaffer (yes, That Paul Shaffer), who came up with a song parody called (Down The Dial To) Kung Fu Christmas for the 1975 album Goodbye Pop 1952-1976. The tune, which features David Hurdon on lead vocal, nails the sound of mid-70s soul, including several ghetto references and, of course, Kung Fu.

Artist:    Fleetwood Mac
Title:    Sentimental Lady
Source:    CD: Bare Trees
Writer(s):    Bob Welch
Label:    Reprise
Year:    1972
    One of the great rock love songs of the 1970s, Bob Welch's Sentimental Lady spent several weeks in the top 20 in late 1977. Welch's solo version of the song, from his French Kiss album, was not the original recorded version of the song, however. That title goes to the 1972 Fleetwood Mac version of the song from the Bare Trees album, featuring Welch on lead vocals backed by Christine McVie. Unlike the Welch version, Fleetwood Mac's Sentimental Lady has a second verse and runs about four and a half minutes in length (Welch's solo version is about three minutes long).

Artist:     Kak
Title:     Lemonade Kid
Source:     British import CD: Kak-Ola (originally released on LP: Kak)
Writer:     Gary Lee Yoder
Label:     Big Beat (original label: Epic)
Year:     1969
     Kak was a group from Davis, California that was only around long enough to record one LP for Epic. That self-titled album did not make much of an impression commercially, and was soon out of print. Long after the band had split up, critics began to notice the album, and copies of the original LP are now highly-prized by collectors. Songs like the Lemonade Kid show that Kak had a sound that holds up better today than many of the other artists of the time. In fact, after listening to this track a couple times I went out and ordered a copy of the import CD reissue of the Kak album.

Artist:    Led Zeppelin
Title:    Bron-Yr-Aur
Source:    LP: Physical Graffitti
Writer(s):    Jimmy Page
Label:    Swan song
Year:    1975
    When the time came to decide on what kind of album Led Zeppelin's sixth effort would be, it was decided to include all eight of the new recordings the band had made since Houses Of The Holy had come out. Some of these recordings however, were quite lengthy, meaning they would not all fit on a standard length LP. The solution was to expand the new album, making it a double-LP by including several outtakes from previous album sessions. The earliest of these was a short instrumental piece by guitarist Jimmy Page called Bron-Yr-Aur, written in 1970 at the Welsh cottage of the same name and recorded later that same year. It is, to my knowledge, the only released Led Zeppelin track running under the two-minute mark.

Artist:    Steve Miller Band
Title:    Quicksilver Girl
Source:    CD: Sailor
Writer(s):    Steve Miller
Label:    Capitol
Year:    1968
    Steve Miller moved to San Francisco from Chicago and was reportedly struck by what he saw as a much lower standard of musicianship in the bay area than in the windy city. Miller's response was to form a band that would conform to Chicago standards. The result was the Steve Miller Band, one of the most successful of the San Francisco bands, although much of that success would not come until the mid-1970s, after several personnel changes. One feature of the Miller band is that it featured multiple lead vocalists, depending on who wrote the song. Miller himself wrote and sings on Quicksilver Girl, from the band's second LP, Sailor.

Artist:    Jethro Tull
Title:    We Used To Know
Source:    European import LP: Stand Up
Writer(s):    Ian Anderson
Label:    Chrysalis (original US label: Reprise)
Year:    1969
    The first of many personnel changes for Jethro Tull came with the departure of guitarist Mick Abrahams in late 1968. His replacement was Tony Iommi from the band Earth, who joined just in time to make an appearance miming the guitar parts to A Song For Jeffrey on the Rolling Stones' Rock And Roll Circus, a TV special slated for a December airing on British TV, but pulled from the schedule at the last minute by the Stones themselves, who were not satisfied with their own performances on the show. The following month Iommi went back to Earth (who eventually changed their name to Black Sabbath) and Jethro Tull found a new guitarist, Martin Barre, in time to begin work on their second LP, Stand Up. Barre's guitar work is featured prominently on several tracks on Stand Up, including We Used To Know, a song that starts quietly and slowly builds to a wah-wah pedal dominated instrumental finale.

Artist:    Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title:    All Along The Watchtower
Source:    CD: The Ultimate Experience (originally released on LP: Electric Ladyland)
Writer(s):    Jimi Hendrix
Label:    MCA (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1968
    Although there have been countless covers of Bob Dylan songs recorded by a variety of artists, very few of them have become better known than the original Dylan versions. Probably the most notable of these is the Jimi Hendrix Experience version of All Along The Watchtower on the Electric Ladyland album. Hendrix's arrangement of the song has been adopted by several other musicians over the years, including Neil Young (at the massive Bob Dylan tribute concert) and even Dylan himself.

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